“World’s Greatest Buildings”

Screen shot of opening image in Andrew Sweeny's infographic.

Screen shot of opening image in Andrew Sweeny’s infographic.

Below is an “Infographic” depicting the great structural innovations of architectural history, kindly sent to me by Andrew Sweeny, of Pennywell, a company in Ireland that produces upscale kitchen work surfaces. Sweeny entitles his Infographic “The Greatest Buildings of World History.” Insofar as it includes the egregious Millennium Dome, in London, which is more like a tent than a building, the title is mistaken.

But not really, since the passage beneath the initial graphic (see above) introduces the buildings not as innovative but as having “stood the test of time,” which is something quite different. On the other hand, the Dome, built in 1999, has certainly not stood the test of time, and God willing, never will. (I pray for it to be peacefully but entirely demolished.)

In fact, the latest Pritzker Prize winner, Frei Otto, of Germany, was renowned exclusively for his tent-like structures. His Pritzker is merely another reason why Sweeny should not have included the Dome in his Infographic. And indeed Sweeny did strike the Dome off the Infographic after I objected to its inclusion, but I insisted on keeping it in, if only to abet the controversy that keeps blogs like this afloat.

Anyhow, most of Frei Otto’s tent-like buildings were erected decades before the one that besmirches the skyline of London, so the Dome probably does not really include much in the way of innovation, at least not beyond the sort of unprecedented arrogance required to build something so damned ugly in London. (But isn’t that old hat now?)

The final building in the infographic, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, is the tallest building in the world, and that must count as innovative. Still, completed in 2010, it has not stood the test of time.

But I quibble. The Infographic is filled with great details and is graphically intriguing. But let me insert one more quibble. Why is the White House on the list? It houses great men but is hardly a great building – nice enough, not great. Maybe housing U.S. presidents is some sort of engineering feat. I don’t think so! What is amazing about the White House is the extent to which an apparently unprecedented number of non-presidents have been able to climb its wrought-iron fence along Pennsylvania Avenue and approach (or even enter) the Executive Mansion. The only major error I found in the infographic was in this segment. Try to find it.

In fact, naming the great buildings left off this Infographic of the Greatest Buildings of World History makes a great parlor game. You first!

In addition to viewing the infographic, the reader is also entitled and indeed urged to click on a link to the website of Pennywell. Renovating your kitchen? Go for it! Hats off to Andrew Sweeny and Pennywell for producing The Greatest Buildings of World History.

Greatest Structures of History Infographic

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to “World’s Greatest Buildings”

  1. Rick Schwartz says:

    Yes, really important to read your intro, because this list left me scratching my balding scalp. One, I couldn’t believe you would agree with many, if not most of these choices. And two, I certainly don’t. World’s greatest buildings? Monuments, perhaps, and not even then.

    Like

  2. Somehow the White House was relocated to the middle of Washington State!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

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